It looks like being one of the summer’s long, drawn out transfer sagas. Where will Paul Pogba be when the transfer window closes in September?
Since his free transfer from Manchester United back in 2012, the Juventus midfielder has established himself as arguably the best central midfielder in the world and his performances have attracted interest from across Europe.
He is a signing that the Premier League desperately needs.
Is the Premier League the best in the world?
It is frequently stated that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world. Sky Sports’ new advert for their coverage of the league features Thierry Henry making this very claim.
However, with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo a year or two later, you probably have to go back to when Henry himself was playing to find a time when you could seriously argue that the world’s best players were plying their trade in the Premier League.
This timeline also coincides with English clubs’ performances in the UEFA Champions League; England had three semi-finalists in each season between 2007 and 2009. Following the departure of Ronaldo to Real Madrid, however, the Premier League has contributed only three semi-finalists in the past six seasons and has failed to provide a quarter-finalist in two of last three seasons.
This is not what you would expect from the best clubs of the best league in the world.
World’s best players not choosing England
If the Premier League wants to claim the title of the greatest league in the world, then it needs to be attracting, and retaining the world’s best players. Looking back at the biggest transfers of the last few years, you notice time and again that world class players are either shunning interest from the Premier League, or leaving it.
Starting with Ronaldo, in recent seasons we have seen genuine world stars such as Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez choosing to leave England to further their careers. Others such as Neymar, Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez, Javier Mascherano, Sami Khedira, Thiago Alcantara, Arda Turan, Robert Lewandowski, Dani Alves, even Mehdi Benatia, who had the opportunity to come and play in the Premier League, also preferred to look elsewhere.
Premier League cast offs
By contrast, the marquee signings made by Premier League clubs in that time have often been players who are surplus to requirements at other top European clubs.
Whilst fantastic players in their own rights, it should be noted that Yaya Toure, Angel di Maria, Cesc Fábregas and Alexis Sanchez were only allowed to leave because their own clubs had a ready-made, and presumably better, replacement.
This trend has continued this summer with Bastian Schweinsteiger being hailed by many Man Utd fans as the man to turn them into European heavyweights again.
Pogba would be a big statement
It seems then that the decline of the Premier League as a force in European football has a clear correlation with the quality of player that English teams are able to attract.
There is no doubting the quality of Pogba and if Manchester City were able to beat off the competition and complete a deal to sign him, it would be a clear statement that the Premier League is on the up and ready to compete with the best in Europe again.